The documentary features not only comic book artists but other comics industry professionals as well. Jones’s life and work are the highlights, but the effects of art—on an individual, on society, and as a business—are also discussed. How important and influential is art? Can it really save a person’s life, as its practitioners claim? How did it evolve from pure decoration to a commercial commodity? All of these questions will be examined as we explore the world of Jeffrey Jones.
The story of art is, in the end, the story of artists, and the whole can also be seen
Jeffrey Catherine Jones (edited autobiography)
Born, January 10, 1944, Atlanta, Georgia
I believe in Atlanta, Georgia in the year 1947. That was before I met my father. I was three and he seemed a myth. My dad, I was told, was
somewhere in a place called Germany, busy dropping bombs on people. I didn't believe in him.
In the mid-forties Atlanta was beginning to build itself into a place that I'd never again recognize. What I remember were ancient buildings,
ancient trees, and a drumming sound that "the South Shall Rise again."
There remain impressions along with false memories with which I've been storied. I was born into the great southern house of my grandfather,
resplendent with ivy-carpeted yards, privet taller than he and clay tennis courts, dry and powdery, spreading quietly behind gardens of Victorian
wildness. I remember garages of mystery: red painted wooden buildings with doors that never opened. Five cars wide, they spread across a gray
cracked pavement where I learned, first with stroller, then with uncertain feet, to walk.
My grandmother moved in and out of rooms like a shadow, leaving a glimpsed but not always certain presence. In the earlier part of this century
she had been an outspoken suffragette, marching and rallying womankind to awaken. Now she rarely spoke.
Memory: My great grandmother, tiny and sick and silent, dying in a great bed in a room somewhere in the back of the house. I was born right-
handed. When she died her death bed fell and broke my right collar bone. In a sling now I could only use my left hand. I am now partially
Memory: My great, great aunt, Ottoline, downstairs, secluded in a lace and sun filled room. She was the matriarch, 96 years old -- born just two
years after the great California gold rush. She spoke to me once of gold -- she had held a nugget, smooth and heavy in her hand, but had never
seen its brilliance because she was blind. Ottie had never seen anything. She had been born without sight. A large and kind woman who
occasionally, with the help of crutches that seemed to grow from her upper body, struggled out into the backyard. She also in 96 years had never
walked alone, nor run nor reached out toward the sun.
The grounds that spread about the house were green and lush and smelled of age and invention. My grandfather, Dunkie, we all called him was a
retired mechanical drawing teacher at Georgia Tech (‘Yellow Jackets' as a team -- "Georgia Tech, a rambling wreck and a hell of an engineer”) or
so I always heard. Above that mysterious row of garages, in a kind of attic, was a lengthy space he always called "the laboratory". Here he heaved
strange objects, built and rebuilt and at times cried, "Eureka!" as if he had invented or reinvented something.
When first I saw my father I must have been about three. Back from Germany, he telephoned, and expectantly my mother and I awaited his
appearance. When he knocked on the door there was a rush of big and little feet. My mother opened the door to the man she loved and said,
"Jeffrey, this is your dad." I was speechless, for he just stood there on the porch, moving not an inch -- huge, about ten feet tall, perfectly
straight, in full pressed uniform with bars and medals dripping from his chest. I don't remember what was said. I didn't know who this man was,
but I did know right then and there that I would be always defenceless against him.
-My life describes the stories of boys and men for thousands of years: boys who were beaten by their fathers, boys whose capacity for love and
trust was crippled almost at birth. Men, whose best hope for contact with other human beings lay in detachment, as if life were over. It's how we
keep, in turn, from destroying our own children and terrorizing the women who have the misfortune to love us, how we absent ourselves from the
tradition of male violence, how we decline the seduction of revenge. ___AFFLICTION
Ponce de Leon Avenue in the '40s, the street which ran before our house, was a wonder to a small boy. While I sat in rocking chairs along the
planked front porch, great overweight Dodges and Buicks chugged their way up the hill which led to Peachtree Street and the Fox theater (the 4th
largest in the world.) It was a city block of turkish domes, gilded with that precious metal mined in Delonega in the north. I sat there often
watching movies like "Gone With the Wind" on a screen that rivaled the sky. High across a hemispheric ceiling there were omnipresent stars and
clouds moving slowly and silently real. The lobby was carpeted and vast, narrowing to a golden stairway that led me to the show.
When I was young my passion was art, eventually comic book and fantasy art. I've seen a lot of people lose their childhood passions, not only for
art but also for life--just getting squeezed. I don't have any answers. My passion was and is my art. However, there was a time when I became
aware that I might be losing it. Having used my ability to draw to buy approval from my childhood peers, I entered the real world with my "cash"
in my pocket. I wanted to be published so badly that in the beginning I took on a lot of work that I hated. Ah, but maybe a million people would
see it and love me. I lived in fear. What happened? I found that the more I went to the drawing board or the easel to do work I hated, the less I
wanted to go there. I was losing my joy, and I found eventually that my joy was more important than approval. I began to get "difficult to deal
with" and began to lose jobs. I became determined to, well, not so much "have it my way", but to do work I loved. It's not so easy to pursue, or
even know what your heart's desire may be. We as human beings have different stories but we're all the same in that we identify the same feelings
in each and every one of us. Fear is probably the most basic. All else is built upon fear. Hate grows out of fear, envy out of fear. But I think that
basically fear is certainly self-centred. It is the fear of not getting what I want or of losing something I have that keeps me out of the perfection
of the present moment and suddenly living in the future. I have no control over the universe, of events yet to happen. Each and every moment,
if I need to, I must remind myself that right now everything is ok. Right now I am alive, and have in my life those things that remind me to stay
alive. I am loved, and more importantly I have the ability to love. There is an acceptance of events beyond me that I must have in order to
ground me and allow me to let go. What is the very best thing that can happen to me next? I don't know-but I always know what I want to
happen, and there I dare not go. So I ask myself some hard questions and I find, if I am fearless, and want what I have, the rest is a grand
In 1951 or so, I, a six year old squirt, peered way up at a circular comic rack in a drug store and spied Kubert's TOR 3D comic. I had no idea there
was a Kubert back then, but I know that I suddenly wanted to draw comics, to create heroes (maybe to protect me from my parents and other
bullies in the neighborhood). I grew, I drew, I took art history and saw what painters had done with visions. Now I wanted to paint (to protect
myself from the bullies in life). I drew comics for fanzines starting around 1964 and did my first professional comic job for Witzend in 1966,
though it was published years later. I went "underground": Last Gasp comics, SCREW Magazine, The East Village Other, while fighting with
publishers all the while in New York. Comics are "real art" to me. The combination of words and pictures is a literal, vastly unexplored territory.
The only other combination of words and pictures at the time was illustration, which I quickly came to believe as immoral (even though I was a
It was the fall of 1956. I was about 13, I guess, when my father decided to get rid of the stump. I had seen him staring at it for two seasons. A pine
tree had come down in our backyard. In 1956 there were no neighborhood backhoes and no chainsaws; there was, however, dynamite at the local
hardware store. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The first thing my father decided to do to get rid of the offending stump was to burn it out.
Gallons of kerosene and weeks of smoldering wood later we were left with a large black lump in the backyard. I could see my father wrestling with
himself. This stump had become the enemy, but Dad had been in WWII. There was only one answer, explosives. Ah, those were the days, the
innocent '50s, before "politics" and before terrorists-dynamite to be had by millions at the neighborhood shopping center. I had purchased the
fuse, by the foot, a number of times myself, for launching my homemade rockets, but I guess you had to be 21 to buy the dynamite. Daddy came
home with a brown paper bag, with a telltale fuse licking our air. He was smiling. Mama was scared. My father had told us a story many times,
from his Air Force days in England, when driving a Jeep along a runway a bomb had fallen out of the belly of a plane. The Jeep was destroyed but
my Dad just brushed himself off as he arose from a ditch. Now it was dynamite. I don't mean to make this a shaggy dog story but let's just say that
my father survived, the neighborhood survived, and our house had only three windows blown out.
It was 1961 and a friend and I, on a summer trip, found ourselves in Blue Valley, NC-named for it's abundance of amethyst crystals. We were
rockhounds. Give me a chalcedony ridge upon which to throw steel or even hematite, limonite or magnetite and I'll give you fire. That was a
season of plenty. One mineral led to the next and we eventually came to rest at a creek where we panned for gold and rhodolite (found only here
in all the world, washed down from the oldest mountains on Earth-erosion for the keeper).
Cherokee, NC was the base-a town of pride and history, also as the selling place of trinkets in an effort to survive the new world. There were
rivers of shale and slate in the valleys, dikes unearthed by water, risen from the remote geologic past. It was heaven in 1961. I still have a garage
full of treasures, from beryl to ruby.
I was married in 1966 to my college sweetheart, Mary Louise Alexander. We lived in Georgia for a while with three cats, Aeschelus, Medea and
Petronius the Arbiter. I remained in school, mostly because of the draft - "Weezie" worked for the phone company. One day we arrived home -
we left one window partly open so the cats could get in and out. I opened the door to find about fifteen cats sitting in the living room, apparently
having a group discussion. All fled. We moved to New York City in February of 1967 and our wonderful daughter, Julianna, was born in July of
Early one morning, I mean before sunrise, I walked into the Studio I shared at that time with Kaluta, Windsor-Smith and Wrightson. It must have
been sometime in 1978, I think, because by that time Michael and I had all but moved into the Studio, visiting our apartments occasionally only
to pick up the mail. We would cross paths about this time of day because I slept at night and Michael slept... well in 1978 he was a very important
sleeper. On this memorable morning, as I opened the big horizontal steel lock on the big steel door, I found Michael crouched behind his drawing
table, now swung into a vertical position, with a BB gun. A pistol. "Welcome to 'Desolation Row" he said as he peered with one eye over the top of
the table. I have to back up a month to say what led up to this seeming desperate situation. From the time we moved into the Studio in June of
1976, Michael came some months later, we heard scurrying noises in the quiet hours of the night. Mice. Well, at first some of us thought they
were cute and some of us didn't. By the time the mice added chewing on artwork, stacks of posters and electrical cords to their scurrying, (one
mouse was discovered stiff and dead with it's teeth still clamped to an extension cord) we all decided they weren't cute anymore. But we being
peaceful children of the sixties, "death to the mice" was not an immediate option. It was decided that the answer was 'Have a Heart' traps that
would capture them alive. Then what? Well Michael and I acquired an aquarium to house the mice in, sort of like pets. We couldn't find
authentic 'Have a Heart' traps but got some pirated copies at the local hardware store. Needless to say these didn't always work properly. Some
mice would get caught, some would get away and a few we would find dead or almost dead with a trap door pinning their rear ends halfway out
into the room. The mice we caught Michael and I would put into the aquarium and feed peanut butter. One midnight when we decided the
aquarium was full enough, Michael and I took it down the elevator from our 12th floor aerie to the lobby and out into the night. Across the street
we went, feeling for all the world like saviors of mice, to an empty parking lot. Buildings rose tall and dark on all sides of us and I guess we
wondered where the mice would end up. But that would be somebody else's problem. As we tipped over the aquarium with a stick, all the mice
swarmed out into the night. Yes, swarmed. They moved as a herd, a dark mass, back across the street and back into our building. Michael had
been sitting for hours behind his drawing board with his pistol, a BB gun, watching as a mouse would creep along the far wall beneath the
radiators. "The BBs don't really kill them", he explained. "They just get stunned." "What do you do with them", I asked. "I put them in a paper
bag and drop them out the 12th floor window", he smiled.
After a few years in NYC a friend of mine, a great artist, much older than me, the late Roy G. Krenkel, told me that I was the Master of the
Meaningless Gesture. Well, I do this in my art because I don't want to tell anyone anything. I want the people to bring themselves to the work, based on their own experience.
From about the age of 4 or 5 I knew I wanted to be a girl. Maybe I was born with a kind of gender
inversion-- some call it a birth defect. I know nothing of these things. I do know that my identification has always been with females-- in books,
movies, art and life. My best friends have always been female and I have always been exclusively physically attracted to females. So, along
comes puberty. Whoa! We were all confused, I know, but within that maelstrom was my desire for, and the desire to be, a girl. Until the age of 12
I knew nothing regarding sexual matters. I saw boys with girls. That's what I saw. In the south, in the '50s there were no gays and no lesbians,
and certainly no one like me. So I became secretive. In my own mind I became ashamed, guilty and worthless-- this was the road I started down
so long ago. After many years of therapy, and many years of trying to drink away the shame, I arrived, ziiiiiiiiiiiiiiip in the year 1998. In August
of that year I decided to stop the denial and start living as a woman. In October I finally obtained the name of and saw the leading expert on the
subject-- the New York endocrinologist who wrote and rewrote the book. After extensive tests, both mental and physical, I started hormonal
gender re-assignment therapy. It's been about ten years now, but back in May blood tests showed that I had become medically female.
The process continues. Hair and androgens are tenacious. As my doctor put it, "I will induce menopause in you so you can enter puberty again.
This time as a female." My development is just that. People have been unimaginably supportive, and slowly that shame is passing away. My wife, Maryellen, has been my backbone through all of this. I've never known such acceptance and love. People have also said to me how brave I must
be. If I understand courage to be self- possession and resolution in the face of fear, then there is certainly no bravery here. I had no choice really. There is certainly no fear of being female. Is it the fear of castration or the loss of testosterone-- that wall of defence around the precious
y chromosome-the fear they speak of? Who knows men? And I WAS one for 55 years!
Do I have a handle on it? Not on your life. I make it up as I go along. Love is daily and unafraid. I have lost and I have gained and I thank God
for all that is left.